Getting a good night's sleep can be easier than you think, if you just keep in mind some of these helpful tips. Remember, sleep is supposed to be relaxing and helps to renew your body every night. Do not make sleep a competition or skimp for too long (longer than a few days) on getting a good night's sleep of at least 8 hours per day. Everybody has trouble sleeping from time to time, so don't worry if you're having a stretch of having trouble sleeping. Try these tips to help return to a restful, natural sleep.
- Set a schedule and keep a regular sleep schedule
Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. "Sleeping in" on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Do not nap within 8 hours of bedtime.
Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed. Do not exercise within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep. Avoid all of these things at least 6 to 8 hours before sleeping if you want a good night's sleep. Also, try to avoid eating any kind of large meal within two hours of bedtime.
- Have a relaxing bedtime ritual
A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.
- Sleep until sunlight
If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.
- Don't lie in bed awake
If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia. Return to bed when you begin feeling sleepy, and try to avoid sleeping in locations other than your bed.
- Control your room environment and temperature
Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep. Ensure a dark, quiet environment whenever possible. Try to avoid going to sleep with the television or radio on, because it can be a bad habit that leads to the need to have the TV or radio on every time you try and sleep.
- See a doctor if your sleeping problem continues
If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should see a physician. Your primary care physician may be able to help you; if not, you can probably find a sleep specialist at a major hospital near you. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively, so you can finally get that good night's sleep you need.
Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; James Walsh, Ph.D., National Sleep Foundation
Table of Contents
- An Introduction to Sleep Disorders
- How Much Sleep Do We Need?
- Sleep Apnea
- Restless Legs Syndrome
- Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
- Learn more about Circadian Rhythms
- Learn more about Dreaming and REM Sleep» Next in Series: Circadian Rhythms and Sleep
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